Did you know that Space Shuttle Discovery was named after two ships that loom large in the history of exploration? That’s right, “one was sailed by Henry Hudson in 1610-11 to search for a northwest passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the other was helmed by James Cook on an 18th-century voyage during which he discovered the Hawaiian Islands.” Continue reading for an interactive look inside.
5 Cool facts:
- Discovery flew 39 space missions during its operational life, the first in 1984 and the last one in 2011. It notched more spaceflights than any other space shuttle, or any other spacecraft for that matter.
- Over the course of its 39 missions, Discovery logged a total of 365 days in space. It also put 148,221,675 miles on its odometer, another space shuttle record. The miles traveled by Discovery could have carried it to the moon and back more than 300 times.
- Discovery is the only shuttle ever to fly one of the Mercury Seven – NASA’s first astronaut class, which was chosen in 1959. The orbiter carried John Glenn on its STS-95 mission in October 1998, when the astronaut was 77. Glenn thus became the oldest person ever to reach space; 36 years earlier, in 1962, he had become the first American to orbit Earth.
- Work began on Discovery in 1979, and the shuttle wasn’t completed until October 1983 in Palmdale, Calif. It was then flown aboard a 747 carrier aircraft to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where it launched on its maiden mission in August 1984.
- Discovery was the first American spacecraft to be piloted by a woman. NASA astronaut Eileen Collins piloted the shuttle’s STS-63 mission in 1995, which rendezvoused with Russia’s Mir space station. (Collins became the first female shuttle commander in history on Columbia’s STS-93 mission in 1999, which deployed NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.)